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Man’s Ancestor Helped Dredge Intracoastal

Readers: December 2003 columns on the history of the Intracoastal Waterway inspired Donn Colee to research his great-great-great-grandfather, James L. Colee, who helped dig the waterway.

Donn later learned a commissioner on the Florida Inland Navigation District, which helps maintain the waterway, was retiring. He put in for the volunteer post – and got it, perhaps because of his family connections.

“I wanted you to know how your column helped me connect the dots,” Donn writes. The longtime manager for WPEC-TV Channel 12 recently became director of research, development and strategic planning for Freedom Broadcasting, owners of Channel 12 and eight other stations.

Here are excerpts of Donn’s account:

“My great- great- great-grandfather, James Louis Colee was born Feb. 25, 1833, in St. Augustine and died there Jan. 8, 1912.

“In 1881, James L. and three partners incorporated the Florida Coast Line Canal and Transportation company, the first company to successfully dredge what was to become the East Coast Intracoastal Waterway. James was the firm’s engineer and surveyor. To encourage development of the ICW, the Florida legislature granted the canal company 3,840 acres of state land for every mile of canal constructed, as well as the right to collect tolls on what was then a private waterway.

“Digging canals through tropical hammocks to join natural waterways proved a daunting and expensive task.”

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg July 25, 2007 at 2:03 pm.

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